Nokia reabsorbs Symbian smartphone software

Nokia C7 smartphone Nokia recently launched a raft of new phones based on the Symbian system

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Nokia has taken back control of the Symbian operating system, 18 months after it set up a non-profit foundation to oversee its development.

Nokia will control the future direction of the the world's most popular smartphone software from April 2011.

Analysts said the move was inevitable as firms abandoned Symbian for rival software such as Google's Android.

The Symbian Foundation - a consortium of firms that oversees the software - will become a licensing body.

"There has since been a seismic change in the mobile market but also more generally in the economy, which has led to a change in focus for some of our funding board members," said Tim Holbrow, executive director of the Symbian Foundation.

"The result of this is that the current governance structure for the Symbian platform - the foundation - is no longer appropriate."

He said that as of April 2011 it was "unlikely" that the foundation would need "any employees".

The decision comes less than two years after Nokia paid 264m euros (£227m) to buy out the other shareholders in Symbian.

The Finnish phone giant then teamed up with others, such as AT&T, LG, Motorola, NTT Docomo, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments and Vodafone to set up the Symbian Foundation.

The organisation was set the task of "open-sourcing" the code underlying the software.

Earlier this year, that was completed meaning that any organisation or individual could use and modify the platform's underlying source code "for any purpose".

During that time the phone market significantly changed.

Figures from research firm Canalys show that in the third quarter of this year the smart phone market grew by 95% over the same quarter a year.

However, Symbian's portion of that market has consistently shrunk.

"With the benefit of hindsight, it looks like the decision to go with the open source approach was the wrong one," Ben Wood, of analyst firm CCS Insight, told BBC News.

"The delays caused by the open source approach has undoubtedly led to Nokia losing its competitive edge."

Recently, the Symbian foundation lost its executive director and firms such as Samsung and Sony Ericsson withdrew their support for the software.

Symbian will continue be developed by its community of programmers around the world, but Nokia will now oversee this process.

"The question is, is it too late to have a meaningful impact on the future direction of the operating system," said Mr Woods.

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